January 15, 2018
Leslie Claire Amminson
When she moved from an egg farm in Grand Falls-Windsor to St. John’s to attend Memorial University, Emily Bland did not expect to be back in the agriculture industry upon graduation. Nevertheless, her entrepreneurial project, SucSeed, has taken her back to her roots in agriculture while simultaneously propelling her into the business world.
“It’s kinda funny because growing up on a farm, like, the parents would have us in like Easter morning packing eggs instead of picking up eggs and I’d always sworn as a kid I never wanted to do anything with agriculture. I wanted to be a lawyer, I wanted to wear a suit–I didn’t want to be in the farm wearing coveralls, and I think I didn’t understand all the pieces that come together in agriculture”, she explained in an interview.
Bland, now twenty-three years old and a recent graduate of MUN’s Commerce program, is behind the company SucSeed, which has developed hydroponic growth systems that make growing produce easy and accessible. Bland was recently accepted into the Next 36 program, which provides mentorship and professional development to thirty-six young entrepreneurs from across Canada.
This year, Next 36 took applications from students across the country who were about to graduate or who had just graduated. From there, the program shortlisted 80 students, including Bland, and flew them to Toronto for an intense interview process, which consisted of ten high-speed interviews with established Canadian business-owners, previous program graduates, and volunteers who had worked with Next 36 in the past. Bland described the unique interview process:
“You’d sit down,” she explained, “you had about five minutes to talk to the person, tell them basically everything about yourself, answer any questions and hopefully gain their support.”
Bland was selected as one of 2018’s “Next 36” and has begun virtual business training and online check-ins that will continue until May. From there she will return to Toronto to receive mentorship from businesspeople, who will cover topics ranging from business growth and development to pitch training.
Bland will continue to work with another woman from Newfoundland who has been steadily involved with the project. Together they will team up with another one of the “Next 36” to work closely on SucSeed’s development. The project will receive feedback from a variety of people from Canada’s business world before it is assigned a mentor in March.
SucSeed, a unique business model and social enterprise that is proving to have a large social impact, began through Enactus Memorial, a volunteer organization on campus.
The project develops hydroponic systems, which allow for produce to be grown at home with no need for sunlight or soil.
“We started seeing all these stats that were scary. About 80% of preschoolers in Nunavut go to school hungry, and then the nine dollar cauliflower was out at that point, and we kept thinking: ok, there has to be something here that we can do, like, there’s a big part of our province right now in Labrador that face these challenges every single day but no one seems to be putting any urgency behind it.” Bland said.
SucSeed sells the systems, and a portion of the profits goes to putting systems in communities in Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut, and Labrador, where affordable produce is hard to find.
Additionally, SucSeed aims to help local youth in St. John’s.
“We partner with Choices for Youth”, Bland explained, “and now we employ at-risk youth in the community to build our systems. So every hydroponic system that goes out the door is made by the hands of young people that just needed a hand up and not a hand out”.
SucSeed has also reached out to correctional facilities, retirement homes and elementary schools, promoting affordable produce and healthy living. The project won Memorial the Enactus World Cup in 2016, and MUN was runner-up in 2017 after continuing to work with it. It is still a Memorial Enactus Project, with volunteers from MUN remaining steadily involved.
“I came to St. John’s I think a little bit lost on what I wanted to be when I grew up and what I wanted to do after university, and I guess hesitant about if I could ever achieve the dreams that were going on in my head. And Enactus very much gave me that place where it was ok to dream” Bland said of the organization’s influence on her. “It taught me everything from how to run a business to how to do an interview […] it taught me everything.”
Through this project, Bland has been able to merge her agricultural roots with her passion for business development. “Somehow through Enactus I found my way back into agriculture and loving agriculture but just seeing it in a completely different light,” she explained.
You can find out more about Sucseed by visiting https://sucseed.ca/.